ISIS Cannot Pose Any Threat To India: Muslims Leaders

Rudabah Simrah

Muslims across many cities in India have been holding rallies calling the Islamic State (IS) “un-Islamic” and “an enemy of Islam”, following recent news reports that the Middle Eastern Sunni jihadist group had reportedly threatened to spread its activities to India. In a recent manifesto reportedly released by the IS the Sunni jihadist group claimed that it “would now expand beyond Iraq and Syria…into… India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan (and several other countries),” the Indian Express reported on 3 December.  

Titled “Black Flags from the Islamic State” the manifesto goads Indian Muslims to launch jihad against the Indian government led by the “Hindu nationalist” Bharatiya Janata Party.

The manifesto noted that “a movement of Hindus is growing who kill Muslims who eat beef. The people who fund these organisations want to grow a huge following of Islam-haters who can turn into potential recruits for future wars in their countries.”

“President Narender Modi (sic) is a right-wing Hindu nationalist who worships weapons and is preparing his people for a future war against Muslims,” the manifesto added. Interestingly, the manifesto also noted: “a movement of Hindus is growing who kill Muslims who eat beef. The people who fund these organisations want to grow a huge following of Islam-haters who can turn into potential recruits for future wars in their countries”.

However, going against the current journalistic practice, Indian Express did not provide the link to the IS site where the manifesto had been originally uploaded.

India’s junior home minister Haribhai Parthibhai Chaudhary said that the government would take the recent IS threat seriously. Last month India’s home ministry had issued advisory to all states warning of possible IS-backed terror attacks in the country.   

The advisory issued on November 16 says Islamic State’s “success in radicalising some youth and attracting certain sections of the local population or Indian diaspora to physically participate in its activities, or the possibility of piggy-backing on terrorist groups operating in India, have opened up the possibility of ISIS-sponsored terrorist action on Indian territory”.

In a conference in New Delhi on November 3, Muslims adopted a resolution pledging support to the Indian government in its fight against IS, if it threatened India.  Muslims belonging to both sects of Shia and Sunni took part in the rally. “We the Muslims in India have marked the day (December 3) as Anti-Terrorism Day. In the presence of more than three hundred and fifty thousand people we took this resolution that we the Muslims of this country will keep fighting against Islamic State,” Bilal Hussain, a Shia member of the convening committee of the rally told The Milli Gazette.

In Kolkata on November 5 Muslims held a rally in which people condemned IS, shouting slogans and carrying placards, among which three read: “ISIS Feasting on Muslim Blood”, “ISIS is the enemy of Islam and Muslims” and “Indian Muslims Reject ISIS”.

Condemning IS, Muslims took out identical rallies also in Mumbai, Bangalore and other Indian cities in the past few days since the latest threat from the group was reported in the media.

New Delhi-based Milli Gazette editor Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan, who is also the current president of the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat (AIMMM), a New Delhi-based umbrella body of Indian Muslim organisations, called IS a terrorist outfit. “Muslims across the world have been condemning IS right from the time the news about the group started hogging the media space. Islamic scholars condemned the activities of the IS calling it an un-Islamic group. Clerics also issued fatwas against the group. I too condemned the group and issued statements saying that its ideology and actions were against the tenets of Islam,” Dr Khan, who took part in the Delhi conference said. “The group claims that it works in the interest of Islam. But, Islam does not approve of terrorist acts the way they are indulging in. Muslims do not approve of this - here in India, and also in the whole world of Islam from Indonesia to Morocco,” he added.

After IS launched a fierce social media campaign for support, in the past three years, twenty three Muslim youths travelled out of India and joined IS in Iraq and Syria, a recent Indian home ministry report claimed. Six of them died while fighting, the report said.

In the past two years, as Dr Khan said, Muslim clerics and community leaders across the country have condemned the group, largely identifying it as a terrorist organisation. Statements of Dr Khan, Islamic scholar Wahiduddin Khan, Prof Jawahirullah (Chennai), Maulana Khalid Rasheed Farangi Mahli (Lucknow), Maulana Mohammad Shafiq Qasmi (Kolkata) and others - all criticizing IS - have been published in several Muslim online news portals and other media organs.  

In September, leading Indian Muslim religious leaders issued two fatwas calling IS’s activities as antithetical to the tenets of Islam. Clerics have also asked young Muslims to maintain distance from the group.

In recent months many mosques in Karnataka, Maharastra, Telangana and other states have been involved in spreading awareness among Muslims about the IS. In sermons during Friday Namaaz, Imams are explaining how IS is seeking to distort Islam and indulging in activities detrimental to the interests of Islam. After the latest threat from IS was reported last week and India’s home ministry expressed concerns, many Muslim leaders in India said that the group cannot spread its network in India.     

Aziz Mubarki, a Muslim leader who took part in the Kolkata rally on December 5, said that IS cannot succeed to spread its network in India because it largely held no appeal to Muslim youth. “India is a vast country where 200 million Muslims are living. Less than one in a million among them has reportedly joined the IS, if our home ministry’s figure is really correct. It’s clear that Indian Muslims did not respond to the calls of the Middle Eastern group at all.” Aziz Mubarki, president of Kolkata-based Sawab Foundation of India, a non government organization that specialises in research and survey on Muslim-related issues, told  The Milli Gazette. “I am just reiterating what our PM and Home Minister said about Indian Muslim youth in the recent past,” he added.

Last year in an interview with CNN, prime minister Narendra Modi said that al-Qaida would fail if it sought to spread its terror network in India because it would not get any support from India’s Muslims. “If anyone thinks Indian Muslims will dance to their tune, they are delusional. Indian Muslims will live for India. They will die for India,” Modi told CNN anchor Fareed Zakaria, in September, last year.

In March Union home minister Rajnath Singh noted that the threat of IS was negligible to India. “I am happy to note that the influence of Islamic State on the Indian youth is negligible. The failure of ISIS to attract Indian Muslims, who constitute the second largest Muslim population in the world, is due to their complete integration into the national mainstream,” Mr Sigh said in a conference in Jodhpur. “Indian Muslims are patriots and are not swayed by fundamentalist ideologies. Extremism is alien to their nature,” he added.

Mr Mubarki added that the Indian mainstream media largely ignored the issues related to the Muslim views about the IS. “In the past decade, after some terror attacks in India were blamed on Islamist terrorist groups, Muslim community leaders and clerics issued several statements and fatwas condemning the terror attacks and identifying terrorism as a forbidden activity. We held several rallies in Kolkata to send out a message that Islam was against any form of terrorism and the Muslims abhorred terrorists. We also put up posters on that line around our Tipu Sultan Masjid at Esplanade in Kolkata,” Mr Mubarki said. “But our messages against terrorism were rarely carried through widely. Mainstream media largely overlooked our rallies and posters. Sadly, our anti-IS rally last week too failed to draw the attention of mainstream media,” he added.

Although India’s home ministry said last week that it was concerned about the threat of IS in the country, security analyst Ajai Sahni, executive director of New Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management, said to Voice of America that he did not view IS a threat to India in the current scenario. “IS has made several statements regarding India since June 2014, including its inclusion in their projected map of world domination in the Khorasan region and the reference in their latest ‘manifesto’. The impact has been negligible, as has been the impact of 19 years of al Qaeda overtures to Indian Muslims,” Mr Sahni said to Voice of America last week.

Many have, however, expressed doubts concerning the veracity of the threats from the IS. Milli Gazette editor Dr Khan said that he believed that a fictitious story of the threat had been manufactured to push through BJP’s agenda of communal polarisation in the society.

“The government says, some Indian boys have joined IS in Syria and Iraq. But their families in India maintain that they were in regular jobs in the Middle East and had no connection with the IS. Since they are being identified as IS militants by the Indian authorities, they will all likely be arrested as soon as they return to India on holidays, their families say,” Dr Khan said.

“Indian authorities are saying that around 150 other Muslim boys in India are suspected to have been influenced by the IS and that they are under surveillance.  I doubt this very much because our intelligence agency arrests people on mere suspicion. They would not wait to arrest anybody if they actually know that someone has even been attracted to the ideology of the IS,” he further said. The threat of IS in India, as the government is projecting, appears bogus, Dr Khan said.

“I have reason to believe that an atmosphere is being created to get down to begin arresting innocent Muslim youths as terror suspects and whip up an anti-Muslim frenzy in the country to trigger further polarisation of the society on communal lines. We all know that BJP has been using this tactic of communal polarisation in the Hindu majority society for years to win elections,” he said.